Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I have been feeling a little overwhelmed with the amount of Quaker stuff in my life lately. The other day, I re-read the chapter in A Testament of Devotion on "The Simplification of Life" and this passage really spoke to me:
Much of our acceptance of multitudes of obligations is due to our inability to say No. We calculated that the task had to be done, and we saw no one ready to undertake it. We calculated the need, and then calculated our time, and decided maybe we could squeeze it in somewhere. But the decision was a heady decision, not made within the sanctuary of the soul. When we say Yes or No to calls for service on the basis of heady decisions, we have to give reasons, to ourselves and to others. But when we say Yes or No to calls on the basis of inner guidance and whispered promptings of encouragement from the Center of our life, or on the basis of a lack of any inward "rising" of that Life to encourages us in the call, we have no reason to give except onethe will of God as we discern it. (99-100)
When I read this, I recognized myself. Far too frequently, I agree to do things because it seems like I am the only one who can or will, but I know that is not the best use of my time or talents. I do intend to follow through with the commitments I have already made, but I feel clear that I should not take on any more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Something to Talk About

I survived speaking at University Friends Meeting's adult religious education class and now I am wondering whether it is better when I am the only one who knows how much I don't fit in or when lots of other people do too.

The topic was "Cross Generation Sharing: Three Friends from different generations share their experiences of how the Quakerism has influenced and helped them in the challenges of their life." I, of course, was representing the younger generation of Friends.

Which was my first problem. I do not feel representative of Young Adult Friends, except as an example of how different we all are. To begin with, the Young Adult Friends group in Seattle includes people ages 18-35, which is a huge range. We have some members who are just starting college and others who are married and having kids.

I also do not feel especially representative of University Friends Meeting because of my membership at Freedom Friends Church. It is sometimes hard for me to believe that both of these meetings are part of the Religious Society of Friends, they are so different.

I tried to express all of this in the panel. I started with the story of how I became a Quaker, then described worship at Freedom Friends, and how much culture shock I felt when I came to University Friends.

I also said that I had realized, in preparing for the panel, that I hadn't planned to say anything about God. I found this very troubling because God is such a huge part of my life, and because I sometimes feel like I can't talk about God at University Friends. I ended by saying that I wished people at University Friends would talk about God more.

I would say that statement got more of a reaction than anything else I said.

To be clear, it's not that I want everyone to believe the same things that I do. I just want to be able to talk about what we believe. I think it can be easy for unprogrammed Friends to let the silence seep into everything we do together and avoid any real conversations about what is happening in our spiritual lives.

If we don't talk about what we believe, it is easy to assume that everyone is having the same experience, or thinks the same things. I also think that some Friends are so worried about offending others that they just stay away from controversial language and topics altogether.

In reading through the Bible, I have finally made it to Psalms. I am having fun reading these chapters that I heard and read so many times as a child, and it is especially entertaining to read several of them at a time. I love how one will end with
Show your strength, God, so no one can miss it. We are singing out the good news!
(Psalm 21:13), and the next will begin with
God, God . . . my God! Why did you dump me miles from nowhere? Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing. I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.
(Psalm 22:1-2).

These Psalms really are like my prayers. One day I am on top of the world and strongly feel God's presence, and the next, I feel like I am wandering blind. I feel that way about being a Quaker toosome days I feel such a sense of community and like I am where I am supposed to be, at other times, I just feel frustrated and alienated.

I don't know whether the adult religious education class would want me to talk again, but I have to give them crediteven when it was clear that I was making them uncomfortable, everyone was really trying to be supportive of me. I appreciate Friends' willingness to have me as part of their community even if I sometimes seem a little too evangelical to quite fit in.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I love cooking and eating and when I had cable television, one of my favorite shows was Top Chef. It was so exciting to see the beautiful meals the competitors would create, under time pressure and with difficult constraints.

I have come to the conclusion that I would not do very well on Top Chef. Last week, I began volunteering at ROOTS, a local shelter for young adults, age 18-25. When deciding which shift I would like to take, I thought breakfast would probably be best―I could come in and help out and still get to work on time.

When I arrived on my first day, the night volunteer who let me in informed me that I was on my own for breakfast. I must have looked a little panicked, because she said that she would try to get one of the night managers to come help me.

I surveyed the completely unfamiliar kitchen, trying to figure out what I could make for 20 people. The night volunteer suggested eggs, which seemed like a good idea until I realized that there were only three eggs in the refrigerator. The meal I finally pulled together consisted of watery coffee, fried ham, cold cereal, juice, and donated pastries. The shelter guests were unimpressed.

When I arrived this week, I was a little more prepared. I was determined to make a breakfast that I would want to eat, and oatmeal seemed like a good idea. This time, when I opened the fridge, there were 18 eggs! I set to work, making the largest batch of scrambled eggs I have ever made and coffee that appeared to be the right color at least. I don't know that I have ever been so proud of a meal in my life, and the only complaint I got was that we ran out of eggs.

My kitchen mis-adventures have made me think about all of the good food I have had lately. In the past month, I have had dinner at
Local Roots Farm (the farm that grows the vegetables for my CSA), I went to a potluck for Young Adult Friends, and my roommate and I have started cooking and eating together more often.

These meals remind me of all the family dinners I had growing up, and how there was always room at the table for whoever happened to be around.
I am so grateful to live in a place with such an abundance of food, and to have people to share the food with. Although I sometimes miss watching Top Chef, I'll take a good meal with friends over a quick dinner in front of the TV any day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Minute of Service

Blessings of Peace & Joy to all who read this minute:

This letter is an introduction to Ashley W and a Minute of Service from our meeting, Freedom Friends Church in Salem, Oregon.

Ashley is a member of Freedom Friends Church in good standing. Ashley is a beloved and highly respected member of our community. She is currently living in Seattle, Washington, is a regular attender at University Friends Meeting and is involved in ministry there. She is carrying a concern for the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference, and for peace and justice in our world. Ashley is co-clerk of the next PNWQWT Conference and she has good news to share and encouragement to bring to you. We believe she will bless all those with whom she interacts. Following is a short introduction to the conference, from the website at

The 8th Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference will take place June 16-20, 2010, at Seabeck Christian Conference Center in Seabeck, Washington.

The Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference welcomes women primarily from Canadian, North Pacific and Northwest Yearly Meetings. As women from divergent Friends traditions, we strive to articulate that which has been meaningful in the expression and development of our faith. We are open to God’s leadings and willing to make a commitment to prepare, to risk, and to be open to learning from one another.

Our purposes in coming together are:
• To grow in the knowledge and love of God, trusting that the Inward Teacher, the Christ within, the Inner Light, the Holy Spirit will be present to guide us;

• To create a place where it is possible to talk openly from different perspectives with love and honesty, and without rancor or tempering to accommodate perceptions of what might be acceptable;

• To use narrative theology, that is, our stories of faith, as a means of integrating our experiences and our understanding;

• To encourage articulation of experience in beliefs, both verbally and in writing, expecting that we will bring what we learn back into our home faith communities.

We commend Ashley to your tender prayerful care, and ask that you allow her to share her concern. We would appreciate a note of documentation regarding her actions and ministry. We trust you will find her a joy as we do.

In the Light,

Alivia B
Presiding Clerk
Freedom Friends Church

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Busy Life, Idle Blog

A short post to explain why I probably won't be writing so much this week. There is a lot going on around here! My roommate got back from his summer travels on Saturday. Though he did accidentally lock me out of the house yesterday, he has more than made up for it with his newfound love of baking bread!

Then my brother James arrived yesterday. He is here for the week before setting off on a tour of the U.S. Did you know that Amtrak sells month passes? It is fun to spend time with James and he treated me to a lovely Indian dinner tonight. I think maybe it's a good idea to have so many boys around, they seem to feed me!

Good news on the job search. I was just settling down after getting all of my applications done when I found out that I have an interview next Tuesday! It's only a first-round interview, but I am excited about it. And if this doesn't work out, I still have year to find something else . . .

Finally, I have my first volunteer shift serving breakfast at ROOTS tomorrow. I went to training ages ago, but I had to wait until the beginning of the month to get on the schedule. Of course, this means that I have to get up pretty early, so I think I'd better head to bed.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

God's Troublemakers

Book Review
God's Troublemakers: How Women of Faith are Changing the World, by Katharine Rhodes Henderson

The women leaders in this book often knew nothing about the public issues that caught their attention. It was opening their hearts to human need and risking a response that was the catalyst. Opting out is not viable, for God can use all of us, however incapable we may feel.
In God's Troublemakers, Katharine Rhodes Henderson describes the lives and ministries of women of faith who are actively working to change the world around them. Henderson interviewed these women and found recurring themes in their work, including the energy they gain from working with individuals, their thoughts on redefining leadership, and their practical responses to the problems they face.

Although I found the organization of the book a little hard to follow, the stories of the women are fascinating. Henderson captures the experiences that led these women to begin grass-roots organizations, as well as the ways these leaders challenge their religious communities while remaining deeply committed to their faith. It is inspiring to see how these women are building bridges between the secular and the spiritual by helping the people around them.

Henderson concludes with her own story of how these interviews inspired her to create Face to Face/Faith to Faith, a program that brings teenagers from different faiths together each summer to promote activism and social change. Henderson's story demonstrates how she personally used the lessons she learned from the religious leaders in the book and encourages readers to do the same.

Monday, September 1, 2008


A few months ago, Emily and I were debating the pros and cons of an online church with Myles. Myles thought a web-based service could be a good way to get people involved who could not or did not want to go to church. I agreed that it could be good for people who could not physically go, but otherwise I was skeptical. Emily and I agreed that Jesus's words were "when two or three are gathered," and being part of a physical gathering is how we read that verse.

I started thinking about gathering again yesterday after meeting. I try not to miss silent worship on Sundays if I can help it. I didn't always feel the need to be there every week. During law school, I was doing pretty well if I made it once or twice a month. But now that I have more time, I feel like I have lost something if I don't get to sit with others in worship, even if the meeting is completely silent.

Beyond just being in a room with others, I am starting to feel like actually sitting next to another person is important for me. Since I started attending University Friends Meeting, I haven't usually sat next to anyone. I think I started sitting alone mostly because I didn't know anyone. I also have an overdeveloped desire for symmetry, so I have gravitated toward a section of the room that usually has fewer people in it, trying to fill up the space. And even though I usually close my eyes, I find others distracting when I am trying to center.

Of course, when a friend of mine comes to visit the meeting, I sit next to her. And I have noticed an alarming trend: three times when I have had a friend sitting next to me, I have felt led to share vocal ministry. I am not sure what to make of this. It seems counterintuitive to me―I would expect to be less talkative when a friend is watching, it feels like there is more at stake somehow. But I think having someone there who cares gives me the support I need to stand, and I am grateful that my friends have been there for me.

Yesterday, I felt led to sit next to a Friend who also often sits alone. I was a little nervous because I didn't want to impose and I also didn't want to have to speak, but I think she was pleased to have me there. And about halfway through the meeting, the Friend next to me rose to speak. Then I got to sit next to her as she shared her message, supporting her and holding her in the Light.

Today, I looked up the verse about two or three gathering, and I love the translation in The Message translation of the Bible of this passage as well: "
When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there." Matthew 18:20.